As a rabbi, one of the most fulfilling things I do is working with couples in preparing them for their special day, and more importantly, for their lives together as rey’im ahuvim, loving companions. Every time I stand under the huppah with a couple, I can see the love in their faces and the joy they and their families share at this moment of celebration and covenantal commitment.
In 2006 the Conservative Movement, after years of learning and debate, took a major step toward permitting the normalization of the LGBTQ+ community within Jewish life. This decision was based on the principle of Kavod Habriut, the honour/dignity of all of God’s creation. This acceptance led to the admission of LGBTQ+ community members to the rabbinical schools of the Conservative Movement and more.
At Beth Tzedec, we too value Kavod Habriut. For many years we have worked to be more welcoming of LGBTQ+ Jews to our synagogue through sponsorship of, and participation in, Pride Shabbat, Pride Month and other programs. We've also welcomed same sex couples to celebrate B’nai Mitzvah, baby namings and brit milah with us. And we have seen to the pastoral care of everyone in our community without regard to gender, sexual identity, colour, age or ability.
In our research to formulate our Strategic Plan of 2017 , you told us that it was important that the synagogue work to be even more inclusive. Toward that end, our Board of Directors formed a task force for LGBTQ+ inclusion that reviewed our policies, forms and culture to make recommendations on how we could do that.
Our LGBTQ Task Force also identified that having our rabbis officiate at same-sex weddings is a necessary and imperative step to becoming a fully welcoming community. This is a step that we are proud to announce we are taking today, after consultation and study with our Ritual Committee, Executive Committee and with the unanimous support of our Board of Directors.
We will be offering a number of educational opportunities in the spring for our members to learn why this decision is so important, why we are excited to make it, on what halakhic basis it is made and why it matters so much to those who are most directly impacted.
We know that some may find this particular change challenging, and we are happy to sit with you to discuss those feelings—change is always hard. Though Rabbi Fryer Bodzin has previously officiated at same-sex weddings, I have not yet done so. My journey to this moment has been long, thoughtful and enriched by experience. Or if you prefer, please reach out to us privately. We welcome every opportunity to discuss this with you.
As spring approaches, we look forward to celebrating the many rey’im ahuvim, loving partnerships, that will flourish under the huppah in the months ahead, including those of the LGBTQ+ community. As is the custom for everyone who attends a wedding, let’s say mazal tov!
Rabbi Steven Wernick
The Anne & Max Tanenbaum Senior Rabbinic Chair
As we make the Beth Tzedec huppah a more welcoming and inclusive place, we are presenting a series of programs and conversations to discuss the shift and what it means for our community.
Monday, March 8
Judaism and Homosexuality
with Rabbi Steven Wernick and Rabbi Gordon Tucker
Monday, March 15
In Conversation with People in the LGBTQ+ Community
with Yacov Fruchter
Monday, March 22
Same Sex Marriage: Under the H̱uppah
with Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin